A four-week seminar for sixteen college and university faculty on the varied responses to religious pluralism in the early modern era.
Historian Karin Maag (Calvin College) and Amy Nelson Burnette (history, University of Nebraska, Lincoln) direct a seminar that "approach[es] the topic of religious pluralism and responses to it in the early modern world through cross-confessional and inter-faith comparisons and from a multi-disciplinary perspective." The seminar is held at the Meeter Center at Calvin College. In order to foreground the faith world of Europeans during this period, the seminar "begin[s] with an overview of early modern attitudes towards religious pluralism and then turn[s] to analysis of three possible responses that were put into practice in the early modern era: persecution, limited legal recognition, and coexistence strategies." The first week approaches "the issue of truth claims in relation to faith," and, more specifically, the persecution of heresy. The primary texts studied include Thomas Aquinas's definition of heresy, a 1530 German debate, the trial records of Michael Servetus in 1553, and the trial of the Anabaptist leader Michael Sattler. The second week focuses on the arguments of early modern writers who opposed the use of force against those labeled heretics. Primary texts for this week include Johannes Reuchlin's 1510 treatise, Martin Luther's 1523 treatise, and Sebastian Castellio's dedicatory letter. The third week turns to co-existence and bi-confessional communities. Seminarians read extracts from Genevan, French, and Dutch church records, the Wittenberg Concord of 1536, and the Transylvanian Edict of Torda, among other documents. The focus of the final week is on the interactions between Jews, Christians, and Muslims: the legal status and theological justifications of these communities; inter-faith relations in practice; and the successes and challenges of co-existence for these groups. Participants read selections from Martin Luther's "On War Against the Turk," Isaac ben Abraham's Faith Strengthened, Chava Frankel Goldschmidt's The Historical Writings of Joseph of Rosheim: Leader of Jewry in Early Modern Germany, among other primary and secondary sources. Three experts from the field visit and lead seminar discussions: Ben Kaplan (University College London, UK), Barbara Diefendorf (Boston University), and Dean Bell (Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies)